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2011 in tech policy: predictions for what’s ahead

The 112th Congress was gaveled into session today. Seems like a good time to discuss what we can expect on the technology policy front in 2011.  I went back and read my inaugural post on Agent Genius from last year setting out predictions for 2010.  I was pretty good at nailing issues that were in the mix and talked about plenty in Washington last year.

Only a couple, the National Broadband Plan and Network Neutrality saw any real policy making action. As a result, many of the perennial tech policy issues will find themselves on the policy making plate again this year.  So let’s get to it, here’s what we’ll be talking about in Washington this year.

There’s a new Sheriff in town

Well, that is a little dramatic…at least there are new players in the majority in the House.  Republicans take control in the new congress which will shift priorities and tactics a bit.  In the House, most tech policy issues are deliberated in the House Energy & Commerce Committee now chaired by Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan.  Most tech policy wonks predict that we can expect to see a lot of oversight hearings. The House will want to examine the FCC’s network neutrality order, the distribution of $8 billion in broadband grants under Recovery Act’s stimulus plan among other things. While it’s unlikely that any of these actions will actually be overturned by legislation, the specter of oversight hearings can slow the taking of any future regulatory action.

Privacy and Data Security

As more and more personal information finds it way online and businesses find new ways to collect and use that information, pressure builds for comprehensive data privacy legislation. The closing days of 2010 saw a flurry government reports on privacy from the Federal Trade Commission and the Commerce Department.  Expect to see more hearings, more discussion and possibly real policy making action in the privacy arena in 2011. While I’m discussion privacy I’ll make a plug for a great new resource from NAR, the Data Security and Privacy Toolkit was produced to educate real estate associations, brokers, agents and MLSs about the need for privacy and data security policies and to help them draft and implement such policies. This is a really useful resource that I highly recommend.

Net Neutrality

The Federal Communications Commission took action on net neutrality just before Washington closed up shop for the Christmas holidays. This order will almost certainly be challenged and likely by both ends of the political spectrum.  Consumer advocates feel the FCC didn’t go far enough and broadband providers think they went too far. Meanwhile, a new generation of net neutrality issues will arise such as how the issue is adapted for mobile devices and traffic management for the increasingly growing streaming video market.

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Why Does This Stuff Matter Anyway?

Whenever I talk about tech policy issues with REALTORs I always remind them that as huge consumers of technology and broadband services, decisions made in Washington about how this critical digital infrastructure operates will have significant impacts on how the business of real estate is conducted today and well into the future. I know that AG readers are a tech savvy bunch that is why I’m here to explain and hopefully discuss these issues as they arise.  I look forward to an sharing an exciting 2011 with all of you.

Photo by uniquefrequency on Flickr via CC license.

Written By

Melanie is the Senior Technology Policy Representative at the National Association of Realtors. That means she lobbies Congress and Federal Agencies on technology policy issues of importance to the real estate industry. In her pre-NAR life Melanie has been a practicing attorney and a software start-up executive. Like any native Californian, Melanie loves good wine and bountiful farmers markets.


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